ADAM PIERCE RIDENOUR is one of the men who has helped to make history in several parts of Southwestern Kansas, especially in Stevens and Seward counties. Looking back and surveying an experience of more than thirty years Mr. Ridenour easily recalls times when he might have been considered one of the poorest of men, financially speaking, in the entire region of Western Kansas, and again and again he has taken up a new drive and campaign after being worsted by his struggle with the adversities of climate and soil and of other factors that many men are content to group together under the general title of bad luck.
Mr. Ridenour has some sturdy qualities of ancestry in him. His grandfather was a Hollander, either born in Holland or soon after his parents came to this country. He served in the American army during the Way of 1812, and died comparatively early in life, when his son Lewis, father of Adam P., was a child. His children were Adam, Henry, Daniel, Lewis, Marcus, Mrs. Noah Clem, Mrs. David Crabille, Mrs. Samuel Clem, Mrs. Branson McInturff, Mrs. Catherine Golliday, Mrs. Mary Lickliter.
Lewis Ridenour, father of Adam Pierce Ridenour, was born in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and grew up practically without any knowledge of books or of literary education. He gave himself a training that enabled him to transact business, and he proved his success in life by the farms he accumlated and which he bought for his children. Going west from the Shenandoah Valley he pre-empted land in Allen County in Northeastern Indiana, not far from Fort Wayne, and there he lived out his successful career until his death in 1878. He was a democrat in politics and was a member of the Mennonite denomination in religion. He married Esther Brenneman, daughter of Crisley Brenneman, who was also of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Esther Brenneman's brothers and sisters were: Martin, Daniel, David, Mrs. Brunk. Mrs. Funk, Mrs. Rebecca Guile and Mrs. Wenger. Mrs. Lewis Ridenour died in November, 1894. Their children were: Annie, who married Louis Niezer and died at Monroeville, Indiana; Adam P.; Lydia, who married Valentine Schaffer and died at Monroeville, Indiana; Ephraim B., of Angola, Indiana; Catherine, wife of Charles Wickwire, of Angola; and Sarah, who died at Van Wert, Ohio, wife of Ed Waldron.
Adam Pierce Ridenour was born on a farm in a back woods country district of Allen County, Indiana, March 3, 1853. He grew up in a wooded country and as soon as his strength permitted he assisted his father in clearing away some of the timber from the land. There was little opportunity to get an education, and the few terms he attended the local school gave him the rudiments of reading and writing principally. He lived at home with his parents until past twenty-four. About that time he married and moved to a small farm of his own. Mr. Ridenour married Angeline Sheets. She was born in Van Wert County, Ohio, December 13, 1857, a daughter of Jehu and Susanna (Runnells) Sheets. Her father, a successful farmer of Van Wert County, Ohio, died there in June, 1915, at the age of ninety-one, while her mother passed away in October, 1911, at the age of eighty-six. Mrs. Ridenour's brothers and sisters were: Sophia; Isaac, who died in infancy; John G.; Melissa, wife of James Barkley; Aaron; Clement L. V.; and Emma, wife of John Pancake.
While Mr. and Mrs. Ridenour reared their children after they came to Kansas it may not be out of place to refer to the children's record at this point. The oldest, John C., is a farmer and business man at Seattle, Washington, and married Beatrice Hanley. The daughter Nellie married William Lampe, of Liberal, Kansas, and has children named Frances, Henry, William, Beatrice and Angeline. The son Herman died when a school boy of thirteen. Otto is a farmer in Seward County, and by his marriage to Irene Wear has a son, Adam Otto Jr. The youngest of the family, Cleveland, died in childhood.
Mr. Ridenour during his residence in Indiana had been modestly prosperous, but he was urged by the possibility of securing cheap land and with the desire to establish connections with the great and growing West, and therefore in 1885 he came to Western Kansas, and on August 18th of that year established himself in Stevens County. He pre-empted in the northeastern part of that county, not far from old Moscow. He proved up both a homestead and preemption, but at the end of eight years of sustained effort and labor, mingled with unprecedented misfortune, he lost all his holdings. At the same time his capital had been swept away. Mr. Ridenour when he came to Kansas might easily have been reckoned as a well to do man, since he brought about $2,000, a fund which would have been deemed amply sufficient to carry him through any stretch of bad crop years. But all the years he lived on his homestead he endured crop failures, and there were other embarrassing situations which operated as a steady drain upon his capital until when he closed out he had nothing and owed obligations which he could not pay. He had struggled with grain raising, but in all those years never harvested a full crop. The biggest yield he ever had was 1,400 bushels, and when he hauled the grain to Liberal, twenty-six miles away, the best the market could pay him was 41 cents a bushel.
One of the sources of making a living in those strenuous years was freighting between Hartland and Hugoton. Then, as the children came to youth and strength, the sons worked out in Eastern Kansas counties every harvest and worked in the fields, returning with a few dollars that were contributed to the expense of the household in the next winter.
After a number of disastrous crop years Mr. Ridenour managed to get together a bunch of sixteen head of heifers, which he hoped would be the nucleus of setting himself up in the cattle business. But the next winter the grass and feed were short, and he was persuaded by a friend in Beaver County, Oklahoma, to take his stock into that region and assist the friend in mowing grass. While he was there his cattle were infected with the Texas fever, were quarantined, six of them died and the other ten he sold for a total sum of $100. Thus ended, again disastrously, his first experience with cattle.
About that time Mr. Ridenour was elected sheriff of Stevens County, and during his official term moved to Hugoton and held the office four years. He was the fourth sheriff, and he also had the distinction of being the first sheriff of the county, since he was appointed in 1886, upon the organization of the county by Governor John A. Martin. After the expiration of his appointed term he was elected for two years. During that time occurred the county seat troubles, though these troubles involved his official performance of duty to a very little extent. As sheriff he came in contact with some of the notorious characters who gave Stevens County a rather lurid reputation in early days. Prominent among them were Sam Robinson, leader of the gang that murdered Sheriff Cross and party. On one occasion Mr. Ridenour arrested Robinson for disturbing the peace.
On leaving the sheriff's office after his last term Mr. Ridenour moved over into Seward County, settling on the Cimarron River, where he bought the southwest quarter of section 21, township 31, range 34. He was still almost at the bottom of his resources, and as a means of paying his way took in cattle belonging to ranchmen in Oklahoma at the rate of 15 cents a month a head. He salted and watered them, and out of the returns he was able to keep his family alive and gradually secured some cattle of his own. Stock was very cheap at that time. A hundred dollars would buy a large bunch of calves and about eight good milch cows: Mr. Ridenour had bought this land on time and paid for it from the returns of his labor. For a shelter for his family he moved some old buildings from his Stevens County claim. These pioneer shanties served him while his children were growing up and until the erection of his present modern concrete home.
It would be a long story to tell his experiences in detail. Suffice it to say that he finally gathered about him a few hundred head of stock, running them on the open range until the influx of settlers cut off the public domain and he was then temporarily out of the cattle business. However, most of the settlers of that time were not permanent, and when they abandoned their claims the range was once more open and Mr. Ridenour and other cattlemen took advantage of the opportunity to resume their operations with stock. During this period Mr. Ridenour began acquiring title to other lands. Some of it passed to him for the payment of accrued taxes. For his home quarter section for instance his total outlay was only $46. He paid as high as $730 for one quarter section. Altogether he now owns twelve quarter sections. Each year he has about 200 acres in crops, mostly growing feed for his stock.
Mr. Ridenour's connections with public office practically ended when he left the position of sheriff in Stevens County. In Seward County he helped organize school district No. 19, and for a very brief time served as a member of the board. He was brought up as a democrat and has never deviated to any important degree from its allegiance. It will be recalled that he was appointed sheriff of Stevens County by a republican governor. That was due not so much to politics as to his general popularity and general recommendation by all classes. Mr. Ridenour cast his first presidential vote for General Hancock in 1880, and his last presidential ballot went to Woodrow Wilson.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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